To many baby boomers, retirement means the opportunity to give back to the community while learning new skills, engaging the mind, and meeting new people. A study published in the Journal of Urban Health showed that when compared with their non-volunteering peers, older adults who regularly volunteer with children:
“As families grow further apart geographically, it’s important for young people to have relationships with seniors so they can understand the value of older adults’ life experiences,” says Lynda Bussgang, multigenerational program manager at Hebrew SeniorLife.
“Similarly, a youthful perspective can bring liveliness and joy to a senior. One-on-one interactions lead to respect for alternate viewpoints and encourage people of different generations to advocate for one another.”
Research points to the benefits of multigenerational programming. A study published in the Journal of Urban Health showed that older adults, who regularly volunteer with children:
- burn 20 percent more calories per week
- experienced fewer falls
- were less reliant on canes
- performed better on a memory test
Other research demonstrated that older adults with dementia, or other cognitive impairments, experience more positive effect during interactions with children than they did during activities that didn’t involve young people.
According to a study by the group Public/Private Ventures, children also reap the rewards of interacting with older people, including:
- improved academic performance
- enhanced social skills
- a decreased likelihood of using illegal drugs or alcohol
The Journal of Urban Health also cites research that in schools where older adults were regular volunteers for 15 hours per week, children had more improved reading scores compared to their peers at other schools.
How can you, your children, or your grandchildren get involved? Here are some tips from Ms. Bussgang:
Tips for seniors:
- Volunteer as a tutor at a school or through a community group, or look for other opportunities to have one-on-one interactions with young people.
- Start a pen pal program at a local school.
- If you’re looking for a retirement community or long-term care, explore facilities that share a campus with a school or day care.
Tips for children and their parents:
- Schedule regular visits at a long-term care or adult day health program. Many have volunteer opportunities for people of all ages.
- Commemorate a holiday or a day in history by inviting a senior to share his or her memories at your school, religious group, or scout troop.
- Organize a performance or art exhibit at your local senior center.
View our video: NewBridge on the Charles resident talks about multigenerational programs